Slide1: The biennale focus was ‘meeting’ – encounters and diversity within printmaking.
For me in the culmination of my first Year of PhD research it was an opportunity to immerse myself in the breadth of international, contemporaryprintmaking. This contributed hugely to amassing my printmaking knowledge base. As my PhD research is practice led, Impact with its wealth of city wide exhibitions, printmaking artists, researchers and symposia was a week long practice led research opportunity.
Slide 2: The opening exhibition confirmed the variety of international fine art printmaking and practioners participating in the biennale. From intaglio, to laser printing, figurative to abstract analogue to digital, not to mention an impressive collection of Goya prints. Our BCU space was captured our breadth of approaches and the fact that the artist’s came from a spectrum of artists. One of the contributors from a Croatian art school commented that our show was uniquely inclusive in that staff, technicians and a range students were presenting.
Our presentation was also the opportunity to meet with other artists. Amongst others I met two artists from New Zealand as they viewed my portrait of Hermon Green, made using an erasure drawing technique out of a charcoal background in preparation for the final silk screen print. The viewers positively commented the printed portrait, but enquired why, unlike my other portrait at the beginning of the exhibition, I had applied a light colour that ‘softened’ the image and varnish that enhanced the colour. My other print of spoken word poet Amerah Saleh, was a strong monochrome black and white portrait and in the viewer’s opinion was more forceful. This direct input has encouraged me to consider and further research the rationale behind my use of additional inks and techniques beyond the figurative mimetic interpretation of my subjects. Towards the end of the sharing of interpretation the viewers revealed themselves to be from Tasmania, where one of them is the Head of the city’s Art School’s printmaking department. We went on to discuss print in art schools, past and present that evening, and as we met during the biennale. We also met Sumi Perera from Middlesex university, [talking with Soha,] whose work was hanging next to BCU. Sumi is now a regular Instagram follower, who shares her printmaking insights and experiences, more that most.
Slide 3: These prints are included because they were opposite the BCU show and applied a 3 colour photogravure technique, which I had never experienced. 4 colour litho which includes a black layer is what Jodie Wingham applies in her piece, which enabled a valuable technical and aesthetic discussion with the artist. This was shared with Jodie and Brigitte through Instagram.
Slide 4: the conference included a number of 3 dimensional and performance uses of print. The most site specific was David Faithfull’s squid ink silk screen printing, on the Santander beach. The concept was environmentally rounded, where the artist concocted a dark ink from seaweed and squid to print a matrix of images of plastic bottles, on the flat sand at low tide. impact artists and members of the public created the printed work and awaited the sea to rise to high tide. The waves would dilute the bottle images and take their natural inks back to the sea, from whence they came. The tide took 4 hours to arrive which was an opportunity to share with fellow printmakers.
David is a Scottish artist who I spent more Impact time with as we met with other members of the Scottish contingency including Professor Elaine Shemilt, head of print at Dundee University, and instrumental in supporting my PhD proposal; Judith Hindlle and Alistair Clark from Edinburgh printmakers.
I attended David’s lecture that-focussed on another ink preparation: Oak galls. I was unaware of the intracies this 1000 year old ink instigated by wasps laying eggs on the underside of oak leaves. The ink manufacture has four ingredients: dried oak galls, ferrous sulphate, gum arabic and water. The inks have been used by most of the artists that we would regard as ‘canonical’ at one time or another used oak gall ink. On my return to the UK I made a digital drawing of the Oak Gall exhibited in David’s show that fits with my ongoing ‘Fruits of Drawing‘ Series, begun in Corsica in 2005. I shared the oak gall drawing with David who responded positively and shared two historical gall prints for my interest.
Coincidentally, on my return to the UK, I met Garry Barker from Leeds art school, at the Loughborough University Tracey drawing conference, who is an expert in oak gall ink. He has written on its historical development and application by artists in his highly recommended blog: fineartdrawinglca. Gary and I have shared blogs on the subject and beyond.
Slide 5: The Danish team decided to walk round the coastal headland from David’s Squid Ink performance to the lighthouse that hosted the IMPACT mini print exhibition on the theme of sea, which I had a print selected. However, my visit to the mini print show was not well planned, I arrived early afternoon to find it closed for siesta. On my way back I met Sumi who offered to take some pictures of the show and share with me. I did attend the opening later in the week to view the hundred or so prints, and met alistair and discussed the merits or not, of digital drawn printmaking. He was interested to understand how I had printed my portrait of a Scottish seaman from a digital iPad on to fine art paper, as he was convinced it was a photo lithograph.
We also discussed the Ren Narbutt expressive abstract print in the Edinburgh printmaker collection. As the master printmaker working with the artist, he explained that although it had an immediacy and vibrancy the print had taken many attempts to create the image on the litho stone, before the final impression was achieved. Another insight to add to my lithography knowledge, and a new colleague to engage with as EP opens their new city centre printmaking workshop, gallery and studios in March.
Slide 6: The final 4 days of the biennale focused on an international symposia. IMPACT is becoming the world leading print research conference attended and contributed to by leading experts in the field. The wealth of international and diverse research was exceptional and provides state of the art knowledge. I was particularly engaged by a panel presentation and discussion on the implications the use of photographic imagery by printmakers. The Q&A threw up useful analogue and digital perspectives including ‘Liz Ingrams statement that: “In a time of social media and screen living it is important to have tactility.”; and that Photogravure is the intersection between printmaking and photography and “A photogravure print Transfers a photograph from a documentary to personal interpretation”; and insightful comments from Chelsea School of Arts Printmaking expert and author Paul Caldwell : “With digital, truth goes out the window. Everything can be constructed.”
In the dedicated International diversity panel was wonderful to witness Soha’s paper in which she presented new insights from her Saudi research into the Kabba representation for the international scholarly audience. It was also an opportunity for Soha and I to meet and understand our research perspectives in more depth than back at Bcu base.
Slide 7: The Internationalist theme of tactility and improvisation of printmakers Koichi Yamamoto’s swaying intaglio prints were created a day earlier, because his original submission had not arrived in the mail. Home made rice glue, a sheet of fabric and etched prints hung from the gallery ceiling. I made a couple of short videos and shared on Instagram which Koichi ‘liked’ welcomed and thanked me for. I made another video when I witnessed by chance, the arrival and installation of his original piece – a spinning kite- I wrote a blog including his work. Back in the UK Koichi messaged and asked for my address. Subsequently he has sent me a catalog of his recent research work in the desert, shown in the San Francisco University Museum. We look forward to staying in touch.
Here he is with liz Ingram, a doyen of print who also exhibited. She is Professor Emeritaat the university of Alberta where Koichi studied before taking up his current role at Tennessee school of art.
SLIDE 8 : Barbie Kdjar portrait tent. Arranged to meet for a coffee. After 2 hours of intense discussion on drawn and printed portraiture motivations and processes, we shared a beer to celebrate our most informative meeting and shared experiences of contemporary drawn and printed portraiture – two thirds of my research question.
Barbie’s portrait initiation process has been a useful comparison to my practice and encouraged further reflection.
Of her portraiture she says: “I approach subjects and get into conversation. Tell them about me as an artist: “I draw people’s portraits and I’d like to draw you. I show them work on my website. I share my previous portrait credentials and evidence of portraits made with people unknown to me at the onset. I explain I hope to exhibit the pictures in the future, which may be a good opportunity to show friends and family. When I make this first approach I’ve not got to be intense. I am intense, but I’ve not go to exhibit that. I don’t want to scare them. Through this ‘Circumstance of asking’I am hoping to establish a trusting relationship with a subject to make it possible for them to accept me as their portraitist.”
I subsequently have written a blog about our connection and have made and shared a portrait of her as a part of the ‘people in the arts’ series. We have stayed in contact and look forward to international collaboration and potential publication.
Slide 9: Salle 2 was a collection of 3D print works situated in a sun drenched gallery of the university. They included a chilled music piece which drifted round the gallery creating an ambience for all the pieces inc Koichi’s and Mitra’s international printed alphabet piece described in her earlier paper.
For my practice I was attracted by ana kidova’s hanging serial printed portrait. The concept and technique were intriguing. It was ephemeral and drew the viewer into each sheet of semi transparent material of marks and photographic self images. Digital and Lino cut – a unique contemporary combination of contrasting print media. I know of the technique and concept because I searched for Ana on facebook there and then, to ask if she was still in Santander. An immediate ping : ‘im next door in the lecture! Let’s meet in 10 mins.
It was she who made the comment about our Bcu inclusive exhibition. She has subsequently thanked me for writing about her work and our shared experience. We follow each other on Facebook to share developments in our practice. Inspired i have subsequently investigated silk screen printed images on tracing paper to be viewed outside frames. When I achieve a valuable resolution of the investigation I will share and discuss with her.
So much more to reflect upon, but no more time today.